ONCE THE PACKAGE IS IN THE CONSUMERS’ HANDS IT IS STILL A POWERFUL BRANDING TOOL
Consumer demographics and behavior are changing, e-retailing is having a big effect, retail is polarizing, digital packaging is starting to happen, and both sustainability and food safety are becoming increasingly important to consumers. Just to take two of these, more and more products are being shipped through the mail and not picked off the shelf. In this environment, the packaging is not anymore an important trigger for purchasing, as the product selection happens virtual. So the protection of the product and the robustness for individual shipping become much more important. Nevertheless it has to remain a powerful branding tool once in the consumers hands. Also, in many markets, consumers are tending to buy either very economical products, or they are going towards luxury. So it is quite a challenge now for those brands that sit in the middle to make sure they stay attractive. They have to offer something more and that, of course, is where packaging can help.
Since quite some time promising bio-materials exist. PLA (polylactic acid) is one; Green PE (polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) are others. But the problem is that these are very much influenced by feed stock prices and energy demands, which means that currently there is not much investment in additional capacity. For me, paper will play a major role in packaging in the future. If we can get the right coatings onto paper so that it becomes gas tight or grease resistant, for example, it has great possibilities because it is a very sustainable material.
For me, digital starts with how people look at things, how they communicate, how you advertise your brand and how you connect the consumer with your brand. The kind of digital packaging coming about now, from QR codes (Quick Response codes) to intelligent packaging, is very exciting. We still need a package that has the right functions, it has to work well, it has to protect the product and it has to be appealing to the user. But, anything in addition you can have by digital connections and additional brand experiences is a bonus. With digital you can personalize the interaction the consumer or retailer has with the package and I think we don’t yet understand all the opportunities that it brings.